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SparkIP, Scripps Research Institute, Pfizer, Max Planck Innovation, Lead Discovery Center GmbH, ImmunoCellular Therapeutics, George Mason University, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Research Foundation, MPP Group, Canopus BioPharma, Wisconsin Alumni Res

Online IP Marketplace SparkIP Launches New Version of Web Portal
SparkIP, an online intellectual property and marketplace web portal, released a new version of its product last week.
With the release, SparkIP officially moves out of beta-test stage and will be made widely available to the scientific and business communities, the company said. The portal originally launched to a limited number of users in October (see BTW, 10/22/2007).
New features in the latest release include international patent coverage, bookmarks, exports, alerts, custom portfolios, and advanced views.
SparkIP also said that it has created two new pricing options: an Individual Silver subscription designed for single users and offered on a month-to-month basis; and an Enterprise Gold subscription for organizations with multiple users.
Universities and research labs are eligible for discounted pricing on enterprise subscriptions and can also post all technologies to the marketplace for free, SparkIP said.
SparkIP uses a patent-pending visual interface called SparkClusters that allows users “to mine a broader set of relevant data to find non-obvious results that are often missed through text-only query tools,” the company said.
The company also said that it has more than 7,500 available technologies from 30 leading research institutes, creating more than 40,000 SparkClusters.

Pfizer Invests $3M in Scripps Spinout EyeCyte
EyeCyte, a Scripps Research Institute spinout company, said this week that it has secured $3 million in Series A financing from Pfizer to drive the development of products for treating diabetic retinopathy.
Under the terms of the deal, Pfizer has invested $3 million in series A preferred shares of EyeCyte. Pfizer will be the sole pharmaceutical partner and will have an advisory and board role. Pfizer will also have right of first refusal for a buy-out of EyeCyte or its technologies.
The financing will fund EyeCyte through 2010, the company said.
EyeCyte, based in La Jolla, Calif., is building on research conducted by Scripps scientist Martin Friedlander into the causes of and potential treatments for retinal disease.
Specifically, EyeCyte will use the properties of blood and bone marrow-derived progenitor cells of patients to pursue the development of treatments for acquired and inherited retinal diseases, including diabetic retinopathy, retinopathy of prematurity, retinal vascular occlusive disease, age-related macular degeneration, and retinitis pigmentosa.

Max Planck Opens Lead Discovery Center to Shepherd Drug-Discovery Projects
Max Planck Innovation, the technology transfer agency of the Max Planck Society, has opened a new subsidiary, the Lead Discovery Center GmbH, in Dortmund, Germany.
Operating as an independent enterprise, the new center will take on promising projects from public research and advance them through the drug-discovery process up to pharmaceutical leads for direct application in preclinical and clinical studies, Max Planck said.
Initial projects will be sourced from Max Planck institutes, but the LDC remains open to findings from other public research organizations or industry, it said.
The center will focus on widespread diseases including cancer, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and other conditions where current therapies have proven insufficient.
The LDC intends to employ a staff of 15 to 20 drug-discovery scientists, project managers, and technical assistants by the end of 2008, Max Planck said.
Until it can generate its own revenues through agreements with industry, the center will look to various sources such as project-based funding from the Max Planck Society, government subsidies, and donations to finance its operations.

ImmunoCellular, GMU to Co-develop Lung, Pancreatic Cancer Dx
ImmunoCellular Therapeutics and George Mason University last week announced a deal to develop a blood-based test to detect small-cell lung cancer and pancreatic cancer.
The agreement calls for the use of IMUC’s monoclonal antibody technology to develop a test to detect biomarkers for the cancers. In addition to helping assess which patients would be the best candidates for IMUC’s monoclonal antibody therapy, ICT-109, the test could be used for early-stage diagnosis, IMUC said in a statement.
GMU will help verify and validate candidate makers identified by IMUC.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

UW-Milwaukee Licenses Treatments for Alcohol Addiction to MPP Group
The University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Research Foundation has licensed a series of novel compounds that may be useful in the treatment and control of alcohol addiction to biopharma company MPP Group, the organizations said last week.
The family of compounds licensed by MPP Group appears to interact with certain neurotransmitters in the brain to block the euphoric effects of alcohol without inducing anxiety or sedation, the company said.
James Cook, distinguished professor of chemistry at UWM, developed the compounds, which may also be useful in treating other addictive behaviors or disorders.
MPP Group, based in Wauwatosa, Wis., and its partners and collaborators will develop the compounds to seek regulatory approval for treating alcohol addiction, which affects about 17 million Americans.
The licensing deal has the potential to provide “sizable financial returns” for the university, Brian Thompson, president of the UWM Research Foundation, said in a statement.
Any licensing revenue will be reinvested in future research, including the discovery and development of additional drug compounds by Cook, Thompson added.
Specific financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Canopus BioPharma Licenses Oncology Drug IP from WARF
Canopus BioPharma said last week that it has signed a licensing agreement with the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation related to Canopus’ Phase II oncology drug candidate, CB1400.
Canopus said the agreement provides comprehensive licensing rights and patent protection for its drug candidate.
Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Based in Los Angeles, Canopus develops pharmaceutical products and assay methods in the areas of infectious disease, radiation sickness, cancer, and addiction.
“Securing the rights to the WARF patents strengthens Canopus’ intellectual property position for future licensing opportunities of CB1400,” Patrick Pendergrast, chairman and CEO of Canopus, said in a statement.

Global Alliance for TB, Novartis Institute for Tropical Disease Ink Research Partnership
The Global Alliance for TB Drug Development and the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases this week announced a five-year research collaboration to yield new medicines for TB, including drug-resistant TB.
Under the collaboration, the NITD and TB Alliance will share information on new and ongoing TB drug-discovery projects. In particular the agreement will involve future collaborative development of novel antibiotic compounds, NITD and TB Alliance said.

In 2004, the NITD and TB Alliance collaborated to develop potential drugs for treating tuberculosis from a class of chemical compounds called nitoimidazopyrans.

The Scan

Unique Germline Variants Found Among Black Prostate Cancer Patients

Through an exome sequencing study appearing in JCO Precision Oncology, researchers have found unique pathogenic or likely pathogenic variants within a cohort of Black prostate cancer patients.

Analysis of Endogenous Parvoviral Elements Found Within Animal Genomes

Researchers at PLOS Biology have examined the coevolution of endogenous parvoviral elements and animal genomes to gain insight into using the viruses as gene therapy vectors.

Saliva Testing Can Reveal Mosaic CNVs Important in Intellectual Disability

An Australian team has compared the yield of chromosomal microarray testing of both blood and saliva samples for syndromic intellectual disability in the European Journal of Human Genetics.

Octopus Brain Complexity Linked to MicroRNA Expansions

Investigators saw microRNA gene expansions coinciding with complex brains when they analyzed certain cephalopod transcriptomes, as they report in Science Advances.